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Curriculum reform is as daunting as it is exciting. But we must not lose sight of the bigger picture, explains Natalie Williams…

I’ve been delighted to read time and again the positive reception that the Donaldson report and its recommendations have received. Having spent more than 10 years publishing resources and support for curriculum change within the UK and abroad, I’ve seen first-hand the challenges that curriculum reform brings.

Aside from the drain on financial and human resources, there is often uncertainty around what the changes actually mean and how they should be implemented, the issue of whether teaching staff have the required skill-sets and capacity, concern around the time available to prepare, where support will come from…to name a few.

Of course, any change of this size will have these challenges and more, but as an education community, it’s clear that in Wales we can see beyond these challenges to the bigger picture – the opportunity for a future education system that makes sense but at the same time is pioneering in its approach.

The next five or so years gives us a real opportunity to remind the world that a small country can have world-leading education, and to help support our future generations be amongst the world’s best at whatever they want to be. However, with all of this within our reach, we must tick every box in terms of planning and preparation for first teaching of our new curriculum.

Last month, it was announced that the implementation of first teaching will be delayed by a year to 2022 to ensure that time is given to fully develop this new curriculum. This shows an appreciation of and realistic approach to the fact that getting it right takes time.

However, even looking to five years ahead, the challenge remains a little daunting. In that time, it’s not only the curriculum itself that must be in place, but the entire support system for those delivering it.

In late October 2017, a collective group of stakeholders came together at a curriculum reform seminar to discuss where we are to date. It was important and useful to hear from a range of individuals and organisations who currently or will play vital roles in the success of the new curriculum.

Of particular interest for me, a pioneer school discussed how they are embracing ‘Successful Futures‘ and what this meant for them in practice. It was also inspiring to hear Graham Donaldson discuss an education system made for a future we can’t imagine, and an awareness that this is a learning process for us all.

He talked, as Gareth Evans of Yr Athrofa emphasised in his own speech (also presented on this blog), of the challenges of translating this ‘pure’ purpose into practice and the risk of losing that vision in the every-day.

Of course, that every-day is our reality – very real and reasonable questions raised included; when will the curriculum be available? How will reform be funded? What will teacher training and support materials look like? When will they be available? What about infrastructure? How and can assessment work for, rather than against, the vision?

And who knows what else was covered over coffee.

Curriculum reform is complex and involved. The entire premise of the new curriculum is to think more holistically about our citizens and their future, which is what we must do in its preparation.

All of those questions must be answered, and soon. Now is the time for those who are keen to help – researchers, digital experts, teacher trainers, assessors, publishers and so on – to open our minds (and our doors!) and come together in preparation for 2022 and lead by example. After all, an opportunity to collaborate as a community on such a scale doesn’t come along too often.

So reach out, share ideas, think ahead and keep talking! The eve of something very exciting will be with us before we know – let’s all be ready for it.

  • Natalie Williams is Director of University of Wales Press